Some End-ish of Season Thoughts on Football

Atlético Madrid 0-1 FC Barcelona

This weekend, I learned the Barça-Real Madrid rivalry has its own, equally foul-mouthed, version of "Go to Hell, Carolina":

Having the benefit of almost a season's worth of Premier League and Barcelona games, the differences are obvious. Premier League games frequently descend into slog--the best teams, like the worst, seem content with a slog. There are moments of individual skill, and the occasional person who rises to the occasion. But most matches are mostly one team passing the ball around in a semi-circle, far outside the 18-yard box, while the other packs between eight and ten players into said box. Players keep waiting for something to happen, and uncertain what to do if that something does not happen.

As a Spurs fan, this general problem has been made worse by an emphasis on transition play and a lack of quality defensive options: the team is good at getting advantages, but seem unclear on what to do once they have them; the forwards and midfielders are too easily dispossessed, and the defense unable to cope with the exact same tactics their forwards are supposed to be managing. Some of this is on the poor mix of players Pottechino inherited at the beginning of the year; some of it's the youth of the team; some of it is the difficulty in training Premier League footballers to play at full intensity throughout the game. In any event, the time I devote to watching the Prem has been ever decreasing.

That time is now given to Barça, who seem to have accidentally rounded into one of the better sides in memory--or as accidentally as can happen when you have a functionally unlimited budget. They are--and this is key--fun to watch. Messi, Neymar and Suárez might be faking their mutual enthusiasm, but it's a convincing show: each one gets a clearly defined role that allows them to combine the glory of occasionally being the goal-scorer with teammates who allow them to show off their other skills (somewhere on youtube there's a 15-minute video of Messi doing all sorts of things other than scoring goals, and it is mesmerizing) and be selfless for the team's sake. If they have any sort of problem, it's being too considerate of their teammates. Rakitic and Iniesta and Xavi will pull out their magic from time to time, and one can count on Piqué or Mascherano for an excellent dispossession.

And one has to enjoy it now because it is, alas, fleeting. Being a superclub means never being satisfied, which means continually bringing in new signings to displace old players. I almost did not want Luis Enrique to win the treble this year. If he does, then every subsequent year will see people asking why he can't replicate this quite unusual feat, and this means he'll be gone within five years. But, realistically, he will be gone in five years regardless of how well his team plays this year or any other year: that's the game now. Might as well enjoy it while we can.

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